When a poor auto-driver finds an expensive camera in his vehicle, he decides to make a film in his village, in the dreams of making a indie film that will reap him millions. This is the plot of the 2021 Telugu film ‘Cinema Bandi’ directed by Praveen Kandregula, which was released on Netflix this May.

The story largely unfolds in a remote village setting, where people live frugal lives and power cuts are normal. Veerababu (Vikas Vasistha) is a driver, who barely makes enough to provide for his family and is struggling to pay off the loan for his auto. He teams up with his friend Ganapthy, an amateur wedding photographer, to make a small film in their village. The rest is about how this duo struggles to find a cast, figure out camera operations and make their dream film.

‘Cinema Bandi’ has a authentic touch to it, with characters that are simple and relatable. Nobody in the cast looks out of place in the village ambience, each actor slipping into the skin of their scripted alter-egos with ease. Director Praveen Kandregula captures the essence of rural life in a light hearted & touching manner – especially their simplicity, hospitality and community kinship. There are several hilarious moments that truly reflect the kind of passions and pomposity people can nurture within themselves.

To anybody who has ever lived in South-India, the movie offers a nostalgic slice of life. For those looking for a fast-paced drama piece, the leisurely spread out plot could test their patience. It has none of the usual exaggerations, melodrama or masala of the typical Tollywood flick. At the heart of it, ‘Cinema Bandi’ celebrates the spirit of independent (indie) filmmakers, sending across a message that “everybody is a story-teller at heart”.

There is a parallel plot running alongside Veerababu’s story, that of the owner of the lost camera, who is desperately looking for it, because she had bought it with her hard-earned money. The camera-owner side-story felt cosmetic and came across as a bit of a hack-job. Although, in the end, her part is tied up neatly to the main story.

The climax is believable, sweet and emotional, leaving the viewer in good spirits. It’s a 7/10 from me.

Please check out our podcast on YouTube by the same name – Abstract AF

Listen to episode 29 for some fun movie recommendations.